For some women exercise has never been a priority and it can be the last thing on your mind when you start to experience menopause symptoms, especially ones that leave you feeling worn out like hot flushes and night sweats, but staying active or becoming active could pave your way to a happier, healthier menopause.
It has not been proven that exercise will reduce menopause symptoms, but there is evidence that women who maintain a solid exercise regime can ease symptoms by relieving stress and enhancing their quality of life.
A woman’s risk for numerous medical conditions, including breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease rises during (perimenopause) and after menopause (postmenopause).
If you are not used to exercising it is advisable to consult with a fitness professional at your local fitness centre to get you set up in the right direction. If you are uncomfortable about going to the gym, you will find a few alternatives later in this article.
Benefits of Exercise for Women in Menopause
- Relieves PMS and muscle cramps which you will continue to experience until your periods come to an end.
- Decreases the frequency and severity of hot flushes as it raises our levels of beta-endorphins in the brain, which helps improve sleep, reduce stress and relieve depression.
- Helps to create a calorific deficit as it increases metabolism and in turn the ability for our body to burn calories, resulting in a loss of body fat.
- If you continue to eat the same number of calories as before, you may struggle with weight gain leading up to and following menopause.
- Most of this weight gain comes in the form of belly fat, which is both detrimental to our health and frustrating from a body image point of view. A lower weight and slimmer waist circumference in women of menopause age is beneficial. For more information on why women gain weight at menopause see this article: menopause and weight gain.
- Reduces the risk for osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer. It stimulates the formation of new bone and researchers have found that women who exercise greatly reduce their risk of developing heart disease.
- Menopause can often lead to depression, stress and anxiety – exercise is proven to help reduce stress and improve your mood.
- Some research has found that exercise increases estrogen levels, which can decrease the severity of hot flushes.
- Reduces the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.
- Boosts immunity and increases your body’s natural antioxidants.
- Loss of libido at menopause can be a problem for many women – exercise is proven to increase sex drive and satisfaction.
- Improves insulin resistance
- Keeps joints and muscles strong
- Maintains a healthy bowel function
- Improves overall health
- A study in France found that women of menopause age who undertook a few hours of activity each week are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than sedentary women.
- Studies have also shown that exercise may moderately reduce the associated risks of hormone replacement therapy. Research is ongoing.
So now we have some clarity – you need to get moving and exercise your way through menopause…
Best Exercises for Women in Menopause
Weight bearing exercises will build muscle, burn fat and maintain bone density. Weights should be heavy enough so that your muscles feel fatigued at the end of your workout.
2-3 times a week for 25-35 minutes
Walking, jogging, biking or swimming all make use of large muscle groups and increase your heart rate.
Yoga, Meditation, Self Relaxation Techniques, Pilates
Practice a relaxation technique that works for you whether it be deep breathing, meditation or yoga.
A 2013 study from the Journal of the North American Menopause Society found that women between the ages of 40 and 62 who did yoga for 12 weeks significantly improved their insomnia symptoms.
Yoga is also beneficial for strengthening your core, improving flexibility and relieving stress.
In a study from Penn State, US, menopausal women who took part in a four month exercise regime (walking or yoga) reported a decrease in symptoms and improvements in mood and quality of life, compared to a non exercising group.
If going to the gym is not your thing, why not consider a dance class. Dance can help to build muscle and keep you flexible. Dance such as Zumba will also give you a good cardio workout and will also keep your mind busy learning the choreographed steps. Dance is also a good way of eliminating the boredom of more conventional exercise. However, Zumba whilst great for cardiovascular conditioning will burn more sugar than fat so it won’t do anything for weight loss.
If you enjoy running but are not keen on running outdoors, head to the gym for a cardio workout using a treadmill machine. This kind of cardiovascular workout will reduce fat.
Increases your heart rate. Squatting, lunging and rotating motions double as a strength workout. Jumping provides impact on your joints which keeps bones strong, which is important as the risk of osteoporosis increases after menopause.
If you have osteoporosis and need a workout that is kind to your joints, swimming is for you as water aerobics provides resistance without the impact.
Someone who exercises can have the same heart risks as someone who does no exercise at all due to the time we actually spend sitting throughout the day. Before you jump in the car or take public transport think about walking first. In fact, walk wherever you can and try to reduce the amount of time you sit.
Housework and Gardening
Vigorous housework and gardening will increase your heart rate and work your large muscles.
If you are unable to carry out physical exercise due to an injury or health condition, why not try creative exercise. Painting, sculpting, cooking, languages etc will take your mind of your symptoms and give you a sense of creative satisfaction.
Exercise and Menopause Tips
- Start with 10 minutes of your chosen exercise, as it becomes easier increase.
- Do different types of exercise to alleviate boredom.
- Before you start any exercise you need a 10 minute warm-up and muscle stretching.
- Find a workout buddy to keep you motivated.
- Set yourself realistic goals to avoid frustration
Fitness tips for menopause: Why fitness counts. (June 12, 2003) Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/womens-health/in-depth/fitness-tips-for-menopause/art-20044602